Cochise County, Arizona Transfers Election Oversight to Partisan County Recorder

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Feb. 28, the Board of Supervisors in Cochise County, Arizona voted to transfer election authority from the Cochise County Elections Department to County Recorder David Stevens, with two of the three members supporting the unprecedented move. The supervisors approved an agreement with Stevens; among other provisions, the agreement outlines the delegation of administrative responsibility which includes “manag[ing] the personnel and budget for all election and all functions related to Special Districts.” Additionally, the recorder will receive nomination papers and petitions from candidates, prepare the election results for the board to canvass, appoint an elections director and more. 

The supervisors made a few edits to the agreement that was posted publicly, ultimately adopting a version with edits from Stevens that made minor tweaks. “I think we are acting in an inappropriate and ill advised manner today,” Supervisor Ann English concluded before casting the sole vote against the motion to adopt the agreement.

This move comes after the resignation of long-time elections director Lisa Marra, who cited the “outrageous and physically and emotionally threatening” working atmosphere. During the 2022 election cycle, the Cochise County Board of Supervisors tried to push the county to conduct a 100% hand count of election results, including early ballots, prompting a lawsuit. Throughout this chaos, Marra urged the board of supervisors to follow state law. Two Republican supervisors on the three-member board, Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby, personally sued Marra to compel her to execute their potentially illegal plan. The same two supervisors purposefully missed their legally mandated deadline to canvass county-level election results after the November 2022 election, throwing the certification of Arizona’s statewide results into chaos before lawsuits stepped in.

Stevens, who will likely soon run Cochise County’s elections, pushed for the hand count last fall. He has called election denier and defeated secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem (R) “one of his best friends” and is deeply embedded in far-right communities that push election conspiracies about electronic ballot tabulators. 

On Feb. 27, Arizona Solicitor General Joshua D. Bendor sent a letter to Cochise County’s attorney noting that the “Attorney General has serious questions about the legality of the Board’s intended course of action,” including the fact that the “draft Agreement does not cite any basis for the Board’s authority to delegate its statutorily assigned election duties to the Recorder, a constitutionally distinct county officer.”

Read the agreement here.

Read the solicitor general’s letter here.

Read more about Stevens here.

Read more about the election drama in Cochise County here.